Women’s history isn’t just about women or for women—it’s an important part of understanding the history of New York State as a whole.
Women have played an important role in New York State history, helping to shape our laws and culture into the place we live today. But for women, progress has never come easily—women have had to fight for their rights every step of the way, including the rights to go to school, to own property, to earn and keep their wages, to have a say in forming laws, and to vote in elections, also known as suffrage.
Women make history in New York State. The women’s suffrage movement was born in the heart of New York State, when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20, 1848. Women and men from across the country got together to discuss the best way to secure women the basic rights they deserved as human beings. A second convention was held in Rochester a month later, and a third was held in Syracuse in 1852.
This native of Johnstown, N.Y., led the women’s rights movement, which began in Central New York. She was instrumental in organizing the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls and spent much of her time traveling throughout the country and around the world, fighting for women’s rights.
Born into slavery in Esopus, N.Y., in 1797—thirty years before slavery was abolished in New York State—Truth escaped to freedom in 1826 and traveled the country preaching about the evils of slavery. She became a famous orator and advocate for women and African-Americans.
Anthony, who moved to New York from Massachusetts when she was 6 years old, became one of the most noted women’s rights activists in U.S. history. She collaborated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the Seneca Falls convention and gave 75 to 100 speeches per year on women’s rights for almost 50 years.
Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland in 1849 and went on to become an important part of the Underground Railroad. She risked her life 13 times, venturing back into slave territory and guiding more than 70 slaves to freedom. In 1859 she purchased land in Auburn, N.Y., where she lived until her death in 1913.
A native of England, Elizabeth Blackwell moved to New York as a child and in 1849 became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, from Geneva College (now Hobart College) in Geneva, N.Y.
This lifelong New Yorker and First Lady of the United States from 1933-1945 was a prominent author, speaker, politician, activist and human rights advocate. She tirelessly fought to improve conditions for disadvantaged Americans and drafted the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Born in Henrietta, New York, Blackwell (no relation to Elizabeth Blackwell) was the first American woman to be ordained a minister by a mainstream denomination. Despite opposition from her family, she went to college and studied theology but was denied a degree because she was a woman. In 1853, she was ordained as the minister of a First Congregational Church in Wayne County, N.Y. Throughout her career she wrote and lectured on women’s rights.
Born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents, Shirley Chisholm was a Member of the NYS Assembly and became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, serving from 1968 until her retirement in 1982. Throughout her career she worked to improve opportunities for inner-city residents and focused on education and health care reforms.